(War of Will / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

From the Santa Anita Media Team:

Newly-minted Hall of Fame member Mark Casse plans to have two starters in the Grade I, $300,000 Shoemaker Mile on turf for 3-year-olds and up on Memorial Day, Monday, May 30 at Santa Anita.

They are Preakness winner War of Will and Sunshine Millions Turf and Grade II Wise Dan winner March to the Arch, each with impeccable turf bloodlines. Out of the Sadler’s Wells mare Vision of Clarity, War of Will was sired by War Front, while March to the Arch was sired by Arch and was bred and is owned by Live Oak Plantation in Florida.

War of Will has made his last 10 starts on dirt. Both horses are  scheduled to fly first class to California tomorrow.

Tyler Gaffalione has been aboard War of Will in his last 10 races, but Flavien Prat will ride in the Shoemaker. Casse was undecided on a rider for March to the Arch at press time.

“March to the Arch has been unlucky in his last couple starts,” Casse said by phone from Florida, alluding to a third while lacking room in the Grade III Appleton March 28, and altering course in the Grade III Tampa Bay when third by a head Feb. 8. Additionally, the gelding was bothered when fifth by just a length in the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile last Oct. 5.

“He could easily have won two of those,” Casse said. “He’s a pretty good horse in his own right. He’s going to run well.

“War of Will’s been training exceptionally well. He’s a Grade I winner on dirt (in the Preakness), so we’ll see if we can make him a Grade I winner on the turf.”

War of Will ran four times on the grass as a two-year-old, finishing fourth with a four-wide trip in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He was second in the Grade I Summer Stakes at Woodbine and fourth in the Grade III Bourbon at Keeneland before his Breeders’ Cup endeavor, which may have been a blessing in disguise.

“Thank goodness he had a terrible trip,” Casse said, “because if he’d have won, he may have never tried the dirt, so sometimes you have to be happy with what doesn’t happen.”

Casse, whose main characteristics are a gentlemanly demeanor and a Cheshire cat smile, was understandably thrilled at being voted into the Hall of Fame on May 6. Born in Indianapolis and raised in Ocala, Florida, the 59-year-old has achieved international success but is most renowned for his domination of racing in Canada, where he has won the Sovereign Award as the nation’s outstanding trainer a remarkable 11 times.

In 2011 he won his fifth straight training title at Woodbine Racetrack with a record 119 victories, nearly double that of the runner-up.

At age eight, Casse accompanied his father, Norman, to the spring meet of the original Woodbine. In 1973, they traveled to Churchill Downs and saw Secretariat win the Kentucky Derby.

Today, like all members of the racing world, Casse is coping as best he can during these challenging times, preparing on the fly as venues begin to display the “Open for Business” sign.

“We’re hanging in there,” he said, preferring to look at the glass as half full. “We have a big training center in Ocala where we’ve had the majority of our horses. We just sent several to Woodbine and we’re running in Kentucky, waiting on New York and very soon we’ll be in California.

“We have so many things to be thankful for, we have to look at the good, not the bad.”

Probable for the Shoemaker Mile, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Race, with the nominated winner entitled to automatic entry into the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland on Nov. 7: Will of War, Blitzkrieg, Raging Bull, Next Shares, Neptune’s Storm, True Valour, Without Parole, March to the Arch, Desert Stone and River Boyne.

BALTAS KEEN ON GRADE I GAMELY DUO

Richard Baltas has a two-pronged attack planned for the Grade I, $300,000 Gamely Stakes, to be run at a mile and one eighth on turf on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25.

Currently battling for the training lead with Bob Baffert, Baltas will enter English-bred Bodhicitta and Irish-bred Lady Prancealot in the 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares, three and up.

“It’s kind of a step up for Bodhicitta, but (Flavien) Prat wants to ride her back and she’s doing well, so if we could just run third, we’d be real happy with the filly,” Baltas said.

“Lady Prancealot is doing great. She’s already a Grade I winner (the American Oaks at a mile and a quarter last Dec. 28). She’s been a gem and a pleasure to have in the barn.”

Baltas has engaged Hall of Famer Johnny Velazquez to ride Lady Prancealot, a stone closer who was fourth in the Grade II Buena Vista on Feb. 22, which at one mile, is a less-than-ideal distance for her.

 Early Gamely probables include Beautiful Lover, Bodhicitta, Etoile, Keeper Ofthe Stars, Lady Prancealot and Mucho Unusual.

Baltas not only is delighted to be back in action at Santa Anita, but was proud to point out Saturday’s massive inter-state wagering handle of $14,342,635 on the 10-race program, the track’s first since March 22.

“They handled 14-plus million, more than Gulfstream and more than Churchill,” Baltas said. “It shows that the desire for people to gamble on California racing is very strong.

“They love the product. When we put it out there, it’s as good as it gets.”

FINISH LINES: Santa Anita is dark Monday through Thursday. Live racing resumes Friday, May 22, at 12:30 p.m., and continues through Monday, May 25, Memorial Day, featuring two of racing’s most prestigious Grade I events, the $300,000 Shoemaker Mile (turf) and the $300,000 Gamely Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf, plus the Grade II, $200,000 Monrovia Stakes at 5 ½ …A total of five graded turf stakes will be run over the Memorial Day weekend, including the Grade III, $100,000 Daytona at 5 ½ furlongs on Saturday, and the Grade II, $200,000 Charles Whittingham at  1 ¼ miles on Saturday…Congratulations to trainer Mark Glatt and jockey Umberto Rispoli, as each had three winners on Saturday.